Hustle Mindset

Denzel Washington As The Only Black Actor On Forbes Highest Paid List Shows That The Hollywood Pay Gap Is Still An Issue


From movements like #OscarsSoWhite to constant stories about pay inequity in the entertainment industry, it is no real surprise that when Forbes released a list of the 2023 highest-paid actors in Hollywood, CA, there was a lack of diversity.

The lone Black indigenous person of color (BIPOC) named on the list at number 10 was veteran actor Denzel Washington.

Financial earnings for marginalized groups compared to their white counterparts is not a new social justice issue. However, due to some public knowledge regarding celebrity salaries, it is hard to ignore the significant differences in pay that Black actors receive.

The most noticeable pay gap is the gender inequities between actors who identify as men or women. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, Black actresses typically make an estimated 64 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic male actors make. This number increases to 68 cents for Black women producers and directors.

While advocates for Black women receiving equal pay exist, Taraji P. Henson is one of the most recent examples of such advocacy and highlighting the discrepancies. During the press tour for the musical adaptation of the 1985 film “The Color Purple,” Henson was honest about the challenges she has faced in the industry.

“I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost,” Henson said to TV personality Gayle King in a SiriusXM interview. “I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired. I hear people go, ‘You work a lot.’ I have to. The math ain’t mathing. And when you start working a lot, you have a team. Big bills come with what we do. We don’t do this alone. It’s a whole entire team behind us. They have to get paid.”

The disparities in wages between the different groups makes Denzel Washington’s presence on the Forbes list even more telling.

Washington has an accomplished resume as an actor and producer and deserves his accolades and salary. According to Forbes data, the 69-year-old grossed $28 million in 2023. However, his singular representation only makes the absence of other Black actors, particularly Black women, more evident that the ideology for them to make less income is still apparent.

Although efforts are ongoing to pay Black women what they are worth, Black male actors have also experienced challenges regarding funds.

A previous report from AFROTECH™ revealed that Terrence Howard feels he has been lowballed for his work compared to non-POC entertainers.

Two things can be true — Washington receives honor and respect for his high-earning potential, and the work to ensure more BIPOC actors are given the same fairness as far as value in this business must continue to be present.

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